encouragement

What It’s Like to Be a Writer and Suck at Writing: A Lesson in Rejection

I was putting the finishing touches on what was sure to be one of my best articles ever. A 1200 word masterpiece full of wit and personality. 

With a smug, satisfied grin on my face, I leaned back in my chair admiring my work. I thought to myself, “This is sure to go viral”.

This article was a work of art. It was informative, clever, and incredibly entertaining. At times, I literally made myself laugh out loud while writing it, and I remember being surprised at how easy it was to write. The words just fell out of me. 

I also vividly remember the rush of anxiety that overcame me just before submitting my masterpiece. 

Suddenly, my mind raced. Fear surfaced. I mean, there was a lot of me in this thing. My personality, sarcasm, and often misunderstood sense of humor were sprinkled throughout. 

I was putting myself out there. If this article were to be rejected, it would be like I was being rejected, because this piece of content was me. 

I was allowing myself to be completely vulnerable.

Like so many others, I’ve always struggled with vulnerability. I fear being exposed. Just the thought of displaying my many weaknesses makes me cringe.

I don’t know…maybe I’ve never really accepted myself and my flaws, so how could others accept me? And, why do I seek the approval of others? I should just be me, and who cares what other people think, ya know? It sounds so simple, yet it’s anything but. 

Good gosh I’m giving myself an anxiety attack just thinking about it.

So back to the article…

It was time to submit my work. But, there was a hesitation. What was once a smug arrogance turned to complete doubt, and I began second guessing my so-called masterpiece. Regardless, I pushed my fears aside and hit submit.

The article was published.

You can guess what happened next. 

A swing and a miss. It totally bombed.

Luckily, very few people read my stuff, but what little feedback I received wasn’t good. To this day, I don’t know why the article missed so badly. But it did. 

I tried to brush it off, but it crushed me. I put myself out there and I was rejected.

See, I’m fairly new to this writing thing. And when I say fairly new I mean like brand new. I don’t know if I have any real talent as a writer. I’m raw. I have no formal training. Basically, I just write and hope for the best. 

I’ve written some stuff I thought was pretty good, but I had never been validated by the masses. As I found out, what I think is good is not always good.

This rejection was my validation. It meant I didn’t have what it took. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer.

In the weeks that followed, I wallowed in self-pity. Writing was something I enjoyed, and I had hoped to one day make a career out of it. Maybe? It was tough to accept that I didn’t have the chops. 

I really contemplated giving up. I mean, why continue to do something you’re not that good at? Why be a writer if you suck at writing?

I’ve always been my own worst enemy and critic. I know many of you are probably the same.

I wanted to hide my embarrassing failure, so I internalized the entire experience, including my self-deprecating thoughts.

My spouse, my friends and family never knew anything was wrong. Really, no one knew about any of this until now.

On the outside all was well, but on the inside it felt like someone had stuck a knife into my chest. Writing felt natural to me and, until this happened, I felt like I was on the right path. 

I’ve never been one to give up easily, so I went back to the drawing board. I told myself that this was just a bump in the road.

I studied up on writing techniques. I read countless articles and blog posts on writing and dealing with rejection. I tried to push through it. 

Inadvertently, I blocked myself mentally. For weeks, I was unable to write anything. And what did come out was complete garbage. 

I lost all confidence in myself and my writing abilities. 

Eventually, I gave myself an ultimatum. The next time I sat down to write, if nothing came out, that was my sign. I was done with writing and would live out the rest of my working days as an office drone locked in a cubicle of misery.

The following day, I opened my laptop and stared hopelessly at a formidable white screen. I literally strained for words. I sat there for an hour, the screen a mirror image of my brain. Nothing came out.

So, that was it. I was done. I closed up shop.

Then…I did what I always do when I’m feeling sad, depressed, or stuck. I went for a run. 

The last thing I wanted to do was run, but I forced myself out the door, as I do. I knew getting in just a couple of miles would make my world a little less dark. 

Coincidentally, a few weeks prior to this whole ordeal, I purchased some AirPods, and I discovered that I loved running with them. 

Throughout my decade-long running career, I had preferred to run without music. But, thanks to the AirPods, I came to enjoy running with some lyrical motivation.

On this day, however, I was nearly a full mile into my run when I suddenly realized I left my AirPods at home. I was so into my own head that I hadn’t even noticed. What I did notice, though, was how cathartic and therapeutic running was without musical distractions.

I was able to process and clear my thoughts. Naturally, I felt better.

I began to think about the advantages of running without music.

And then it hit me.

In fact, I stopped dead in my tracks. I did a complete 180 and basically sprinted back to my laptop.

In 30 minutes, one of my most well-received articles to date was complete: Why You Should Run Without Music.

In fact, it was so well received that I was shown my doubts were misplaced. Maybe I was decent at this writing thing after all. Maybe I overreacted just a tad. Maybe this happened for a reason.

Rejection is Redirection

In the past, I could brush off rejection. This particular instance hit me harder than anything I’ve experienced, though. I guess I took the rejection very personal since so much of my personality was inlaid throughout that underwhelming piece of penmanship.

It’s very difficult to be vulnerable. I have many insecurities. To be rejected stung a bit. But, the experience taught me that rejection is really just redirection.

Rejection is just life’s way of steering you down the correct route. It’s like a sign saying don’t go this way, go that way.

Instead of fearing rejection, I learned to accept it and be grateful for it.

In any path you take, you’re going to screw up. That’s a guarantee.

But, if you’ve got a dream, a goal, something you’re working towards, don’t let the fear of rejection stand in the way.

You’re going to be too much for some people. Not everyone will get you. You’re not going to be liked by everyone. At some point, you’ll likely embarrass yourself.  

Do it anyway.

Be vulnerable. It’s terrifying, but a prerequisite to success. Success requires a certain level of authenticity. And you can’t be authentic without being vulnerable.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of authenticity and creativity.

Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is bravery. It’s having the courage to expose and accept your self-perceived flaws.

Whether you believe it or not, you’re here for a reason. Cloaking your uniqueness is not only a disservice to you, but to the world.

Please, put yourself out there. Get out of your comfort zone and watch what happens.

Published by Hot Mess Press